Improve Your Speed on CARS Passages in weeks by mastering the fundamentals

Improve Your Speed on CARS Passages in weeks by mastering the fundamentals

Improve Your Speed on CARS Passages in weeks by mastering the fundamentals

Welcome to our series on “How to Get a CARS Score That Will Get You into Medical School. The CARS Exam can be really scary for premed students. There seems to be so little time to understand what an author is really saying, especially in those humanities passages where they’re talking about subjects that you have absolutely no familiarity with. Preparing for the CARS Exam can be truly frustrating. You’ve worked so hard and done so well in your science courses. Now it feels like they’ve put up a roadblock between you and becoming a doctor.

It’s not that you don’t know how to study or master a body of material. Its that you’re studying the wrong things. You may already know that intuitively. No matter how many passages you read and practice tests you take, it feels like you’re trying to play tennis with a golf club. This series is about giving you the right tools: knowing exactly what you need to master in order to read critically and answer questions effectively: Rhetoric, Grammar, and Reflective Reasoning, and how to master them. Mastering these fundamentals will not only raise your CARS score, but will also give you the tools to read the other sections of the test faster and with better comprehension, allowing you to improve your overall MCAT scores and raise your MCAT percentiles.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, both in my research and teaching at Harvard and in my work at the Cambridge Learning Center. But this isn’t about me. It’s about getting you into medical school.

Let’s start with an overview of what we’ll be doing together. The first thing to note is that I’m going to be giving you a real MCAT CARS Strategy for preparing for this exam. I’m going to be teaching you the fundamentals of critical reading: how to read a passage quickly and comprehensively and analyze questions to consistently get the right answers. It all has to do with mastering the fundamentals of language. It’s a whole field of learning like the first time you learned Chemistry, and like Chemistry, there are no test taking “Tips or Tricks”. You have to know the basics. Think about it this way, just because you know how to combine ingredients to cook a good meal doesn’t mean you know how to combine chemicals in a chemistry lab. The same thing is true in reading a passage and analyzing questions, especially humanities passages. It’s not like reading a science text. It takes a whole different set of skills. 

Mastering these fundamentals of critical reading really works. But don’t take my word for it, see what all these students who are now in medical school have to say. After reading this, take a look at the comments of some of our students, many of whom raised their verbal or CARS score by as much as 6 points.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be covering the following topics:

  • How to use Rhetoric to increase speed and comprehension by

    • Quickly finding the Main Idea of a passage
    • Getting to the key ideas right away

    • Knowing what the language in humanities passages “means” which isn’t always the same as “what it says”.

  • How to read a passage and analyze questions step by step

  • How to understand the Relationship Between Ideas and see

    • What those relationships “suggest” or “imply” and

    • How to apply those ideas to new sets of facts

  • How to increase reading speed and comprehension

We’ll also be going over how to increase your brain functionality. That’s right, increasing neural capacity so that the language skills you’ll develop can be used more quickly and effectively. I first dove into this area when I was at Harvard and you’ll see how the research in the last ten years shows you how to increase cognitive function and raise neurotransmitter levels by as much as 35%. We’ll be going through:

  • The uses of certain neuroscience exercises to increase frontal cortex engagement and raise neurotransmitter levels and

  • Different diet modifications that increase neural ATP production and increase the number of mitochondria in neurons

It’s pretty amazing stuff, but like we tell our students: “It’s isn’t brain surgery but it is brain science”. We’ll also be talking about what’s going on in the research in these areas and how it can help you get a higher CARS score and get into medical school.

Learning the fundamentals of critical reading entails quite a bit of work, but you’re used to that. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have gotten this far. Just keep in mind “Excellence Matters”. You need to work hard and work smart just as you did in your science courses. There’s a big difference between a 123 and a 128. If you master the fundamentals, you will succeed. Remember, you don’t want an average MCAT score. That’s not going to guarantee you a place in medical school that you’ve worked so hard for. Mastering CARS will give you that high MCAT score that will set you apart from other applicants.

We have plenty of free resources to help you including a free diagnostic test where we will analyze your strengths and weaknesses and send you a response with an analysis.

We also have free online classes where I go through all the elements of the CARS Test, work through CARS practice passages with you and answer any questions that you have about any challenges you’re facing.

As you go through the materials, let me know your thoughts. Just send me an email I read every one. Your comments help us improve what we do so that we can help more students and do a better job at what we do. It also helps us in our continuing research into verbal cognition and neural processing. Also, let me know if you’re getting more information than you can process in a given period. I plan to give you two solid lessons a week.

Best wishes for your success. You’re embarking on a career in one of the noblest professions in the world.

Until next time,


PS The next blog post is the first lesson on Rhetoric: How to quickly find the main idea in different types of essays.

PPS If you can, go through these materials with a classmate. The back and forth process of discussing the issues and applying them to passages really makes a difference. It’s like becoming fluent in a foreign language. You have to use it with someone else in that back and forth process to build speed and depth of comprehension.